Monday, October 09, 2006

Museum Day

A cloudy, sometimes rainy day meant an indoor excursion was on today’s tourist agenda. I hate to admit it, but in the more than ten years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I never made it to the Auckland War Memorial Museum (or simply, Auckland Museum, as it’s also known). Until today.

The Museum was built essentially to serve as a war memorial to the people who lost their lives in the First World War, and later, every subsequent war. The top floor has spaces dedicated to this purpose, and other spaces for explaining the wars.

The lower floors examine the environment and cultural history of
New Zealand, including Maori and Pacific Island peoples. The top floor primarily shows the New Zealand war experience, first with the New Zealand Wars, then the Boer War, WW1 and 2, and on to more recent wars.

Back on the top floor, the WW1 Sanctuary records the names of Aucklanders who fell in the war around all four walls. Apparently, almost a third of those killed in the war have no known grave. This hall provided a place to remember those lost.

Around the other side is the WW2 Hall of Memories, in which are inscribed the names of the Auckland dead from WW2, the Korean War, the Malaya-Borneo Conflict and the Vietnam War. The two halls together have a lot of names on the walls.

New Zealand participates in UN-sanctioned peacekeeping missions around the world. As a small trading nation, New Zealand has put a lot of effort into making the United Nations work in order to avoid the catastrophe of future global war.

The country steers a largely independent foreign policy, which has drawn it into conflict with both
Australia and the United States, most notably on New Zealand’s status as a nuclear-free nation. To us, being nuclear-free has become an integral part of our sense of nationhood. By and large, Kiwis would think that if the US government is still harbouring a grudge over NZ’s move to nuclear-free status, it’s time the US just got over it and moved on.

Personally, I think that if a few more countries adopted
New Zealand’s cooperative approach to world affairs, there might be less need for massive war memorials in the future, and museums could be, simply, museums.

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